Get Low! Here’s How to Prune Your Roses

The end of February in Alabama is a signal to sharpen your pruners and get to pruning your roses. I spent most of the weekend pruning and still have a few more to go! I made this companion video to give some illustration to what I have outlined below I hope you will find it to be of some benefit.

I follow 3 D’s when pruning roses in spring:

  • Remove DEAD canes
  • Remove DISEASED canes
  • Remove DAMAGED canes

I also look for and remove crossing canes that rub against one another and will ultimately damage one another. The photo below shows the result of this type of damage.

Damage from crossing canes on roses

Damage from crossing canes on roses

Since modern repeat blooming roses bloom on new wood, I tend to prune them low, down to about 18-24 inches from the ground.  Our roses are already putting out new growth, so it was very easy to tell where to cut. If possible, you want to cut where the new growth is facing away from the center of the shrub. This new outward growth promotes good air circulation in the center of the shrub. This is an important factor in keeping down disease.

I do not prune my climbing roses at this time. I continue to allow them put out new growth. I don’t prune them until after the first cycle of bloom. Then I trim and shape as needed. This also applies to any once blooming roses I have in my garden.

We weed and remove any debris that may have fallen or blown into  our rose beds during the winter. Diseased leaves will overwinter in your garden and if you fail to remove them, it will cause you disease problems in the spring.  We apply a fresh layer of mulch during this time.  This new layer of protection will keep weeds down and help with moisture retention. We use mini pine bark nuggets. It beaks down quickly in the garden and adds to the mix of the soil.

I had the help of three great tools in the garden made pruning 150+ rose shrubs a lot easier

  1. A sharp pair of bypass pruners – Do Not use anvil type pruners. They can damage your roses.
  2. A pair of gauntlet gloves – allows you to get in “up to your elbows” as needed. Wendy Tilley at has these at a great price.
  3. A good set of loppers – Needed for removing the 3 D’s from your garden. Mine are actually a two handed pruner from Corona Tools USA 

By following these simple steps, help get my roses off to a good start for the bloom season that is surely ahead.



About Chris VanCleave - America's Favorite Rose Gardener

Christopher R. VanCleave – America’s Favorite Rose Gardener Nicknamed "The Redneck Rosarian”, Chris VanCleave is passionate about gardening and growing roses. He is an active member of the Birmingham chapter of the American Rose Society, serving two terms as President. In 2007, he created the Rose Chat Podcast which has reached over a half a million listeners with news and information on growing on growing the world’s most beloved flower, the rose. He was a contributor to the 2015 Southern Living Gardening Book, has appeared on P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home television show and was featured in the June 2015 issue of Southern Living Magazine. Locally, Chris serves as Chairman of the Helena Alabama Beautification Board where he has spearheaded efforts to create a sustainable landscape in one of the top one hundred places to live in the United States. His writing is seen at and on his popular website;, where he chronicles his gardening adventures and explores an intrinsic mix of life, faith and gardening. An agent of change with over 20 years’ experience in process innovation, Mr. VanCleave is leading the charge to reinvigorate horticultural societies and helping them to reach their full potential in the social media age.
This entry was posted in #MooPooCrew, #roses, Alabama, Pruning, YouTube and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Get Low! Here’s How to Prune Your Roses

  1. Cathy Testa says:

    Nice video and I like how you mentioned the “size of a pencil” stems and the white interior, and the container garden example. I’d like to reblog your post with your permission on my blog called Container Crazy CT. Cathy


  2. Dorie king says:

    how can I subscribe to your newsletters?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tina says:

    We are getting a freezing rain tomorrow…70’s today…freezing rain tomorrow..only in Alabama 🙂 …should I wait until the weekend after the freeze to prune or is today ok?
    Thanks so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Chris. What excellent tips. I did not know about looking for the all-white interior to the cane which makes perfect sense. I wish now I hadn’t gotten over-zealous and pruned back my climbing roses, but they’ll bounce back, I imagine. And thanks so much for the link to gauntlets which I need desperately.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great video Chris! I didn’t know about the cutting the canes with the brown spots. Looking forward to pruning my roses a lot better come June!


  6. Hey Chris, great lesson. Do you have a favorite brand of bypass pruner? Why not add a video about sharpening your tools? See you in Arkansas in May. Cannot wait! D.


  7. Thank you for the video! I’m fairly new to having a rose garden and hoping to get a better start this year!


  8. regenia thomas says:

    Would you have tips on knock out roses.


    • Hey Regenia, I treat my knockout like any other shrub in my garden. I take the hedge trimmers to them. Trim and shape them low in early spring and stand back and watch em grow and bloom! Hope this helps. Thanks for stopping by.


  9. Lisa Selby-Brood says:

    Great video, you can hear people tell you a dozen times how to do it, but I really like hand-on videos. I have to watch to learn. Hoping for good things in Florida this season,
    Lisa B. (Palm Harbor, FL)
    By the way Chris, you probably don’t remember, but I sent you my favorite fragrant rose pic a couple years back, the Chrysler Imperial?
    It didn’t survive the new roof installation.
    For all my prompting and warnings they tipped a wheelbarrow full of old broken tile right over the edge of the roof, and it landed square on top of my poor ‘ol Chrysler:( I was sad, and angry, but we’ll have to try again with another very soon to replace him. My poor baby.)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Micheal says:

    Great video mate.Love to watch these types of videos.Thanks for sharing.Keep it up


  11. Jim thompson says:

    What a great video man . Good job


I Appreciate Your Comments

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s